January 26th – Johnson Motorway to Rocky Peak
18 hikers met at the trailhead on Iverson Road just outside the gated southern entrance to Indian Springs Estates in Chatsworth on a mild winter morning with a wind advisory. After following the easement through the upscale gated community, we reached the beginning of the unpaved Johnson Motorway (once a toll road).
The trail (an old dirt and sandstone roadbed) rose westward until it met a short “driveway” leading north to the ruins of the ranch house that was built by Ann and Neils Johnson who were the first English-speaking homesteaders in the San Fernando Valley; they had built their primary home in “Chatsworth Park” in the 1870’s. It should be noted that we were “assaulted” by strong intermittent winds at times during the hike, although there was little or no wind during more than half of the hike. Leaving the ruins, we followed the Johnson Motorway as it passed through a landscape of dramatic rock formations, climbing steadily, but not steeply, toward the Rocky Peak Fire Road. The temperature rose (but was still pleasant) as the sun ascended and we soon removed our jackets. After 3.5 miles we reached the fire road where we took a short snack/rest break while we enjoyed the scenery including lots of green hillsides. We then headed southward along the Rocky Peak Fire Road enjoying views of interesting rock formations and Simi Valley to the west. A short spur trail led us eastward to an overlook of the San Fernando Valley near Rocky Peak. We took another break while we enjoyed views as diverse as snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Cruz Island, and the tops of tall buildings in downtown Los Angeles. We soon retraced our route downhill back to our vehicles and returned home having completed a pleasant 9.5-mile hike with about 1,900’ of total elevation gain/loss.
January 19th – Las Llajas Canyon and Chumash Trail Loop
21 hikers met at the Las Llajas Canyon trailhead on Evening Sky Drive in Simi Valley on a cool winter morning. We began our hike by descending a short paved section of road into the canyon bottom; from there a wide graded dirt road followed a streambed north through the canyon, crossing the streambed three times.
The stream had a little water in it and a trickle was slowly moving downstream; there were also several separate mud puddles in the road itself. The steep canyon walls provided shade and a refreshing breeze as we enjoyed an easy 3.5 mile trek up the canyon. Nearing the Poe Ranch gate, we took the right (east) fork and continued up the dirt road leading to an abandoned oil field which has been “cleaned up” (purposefully stripped of all remaining aboveground equipment/pipes) and then on up to a junction with the Rocky Peak Fire Road, savoring the views back down the canyon and of the surrounding area along the way. After reaching the Rocky Peak Fire Road (where a majestic oak tree has died and crashed to the ground), we turned right and headed south toward the upper end of the Chumash Trail. Along the way we passed Fossil Hill (named for the shells of sea creatures left behind when the area was under a vast sea). We enjoyed panoramic views of mountains and canyons to the east, south, and west including some snow atop a peak in the distant San Gabriel Mountains. The nearby mountainous terrain was covered with pretty bright green grass that had seemingly appeared overnight. Upon reaching the upper end of the Chumash Trail with its “Chumash Trail 2.7 miles to Flanagan Drive trailhead” sign, we stopped briefly before rapidly descending the familiar trail into Simi Valley; along the way down we spotted two red-tail hawks and a vulture. We then turned right (west) and followed a short connector trail to a closed-but-not-locked gate in a fence at the east end of Evening Sky Drive. A short walk along Evening Sky Drive took us back to our vehicles, having completed a very pleasant 9.6-mile hike with over 1,900’ of elevation gain/loss.
January 5th – Devil Canyon to Browns Canyon Road
21 hikers met at the hike’s starting point on Poema Place in Chatsworth on a cool winter morning. As our hike began we descended along a fairly steep “use” trail into the heavily shaded bottom of Devil Canyon where we followed the remnants of the Devil Canyon Motorway upstream as it frequently crisscrossed the sometimes wet (thanks to recent rain) creek bed.
We spotted lots of interesting sandstone-rock-cliff formations and chalk dudleya “liveforever” plants as we made our way up to the large dam at the trail’s junction with the mouth of Ybarra Canyon. After a brief rest break we continued upstream along the occasionally muddy, but mostly dry, trail which from this point on had been transformed a few of years ago from single-track to a “one-lane” dirt road [the reason for this not being apparent though several short dirt “side roads” and one long one heading north have also been created]. As the canyon widened we passed by grass-covered hillsides dotted with oak trees. When we reached the upper-canyon Cathedral-like oak woodland, the trail reverted to its natural undisturbed state (including lots of fallen oak trees, presumably killed by wildfire and drought). Upon reaching Brown’s Canyon Road we turned right (east) and hiked a short distance uphill where we took a break and enjoyed views to the south. We then retraced our route and returned to our vehicles having completed a very pleasant 9.6-mile hike in this unique canyon with about 1,300’ of elevation gain/loss.